A Little About Us

The Patient Alumni

A Brief History of the Ottawa Heart Institute’s Patient Alumni Association 

The University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) is Canada’s largest and foremost cardiovascular health centre, seeing more than 94,000 patients a year. With its seeds planted in the mid-1970s, UOHI’s Patient Alumni Association is likely Canada’s, and possibly the world’s, first-ever patient engagement program.


How It Began

In 1976, Mary Clinckett, then the Head of Physiotherapy at the brand-new UOHI, felt it was essential for patients to stay involved with the Institute following surgery. At the time, the Institute’s surgical program was made up of just 4 beds. Clinckett instituted a rehab program, with patients attending twice a week for 6 months following surgery. As many as 400 patients came through the rehab program.

Clinckett felt strongly that all patients needed to stay informed about heart disease treatment and prevention long after their stay. She also saw an opportunity for patients to give back to the work and evolution of the Heart Institute.


Linking Rehab and Patient Engagement

In 1983, thanks in large part to Clinckett’s efforts, a proper rehabilitation centre was built alongside the Institute. Now thousands were going through her rehabilitation program each year, and many maintained contact with the Institute long after their rehab was complete. Clinckett decided to harness patients’ loyalty to the UOHI and appeal to their interest in making a contribution.


Making it Official

In 1984, following her retirement, Clinckett turned her energy to the creation of a formal association of patient alumni. With the enthusiastic support of Dr. Wilbert Keon, founder of the UOHI and its CEO for more than 30 years, the newly formed Patient Alumni Association was provided with an office and administrative support, all as a donation-in-kind. (Angie Ross, who assisted with the administration of the nascent Association, is still an employee at UOHI to this day.) Clinckett recruited volunteers, mostly retired nurses, to help.

In 1985 the Patient Alumni Association was officially up-and-running. The first thing Clinckett did was to ensure that all surgical patients received a letter inviting them to become members. Members received ongoing education and support, and in return many members contributed to an Association fund targeted 100% toward improving patient comfort and support.


The UOHI Patient Alumni Association Today

Since its inception, the UOHI Patient Alumni Association has had more than 12,000 former patients as active members. The Patient Alumni Association functions as an incorporated charitable organization with a Constitution and a Board of Directors to guide its activities. Membership is open to all UOHI patients, former patients, and their relatives and friends. In the past, members paid a nominal annual membership fee. However, the Association recently moved to a new membership model whereby all patients automatically become members, with no membership fee required.


We thank Scotiabank for the generous contribution they made to the Institute as it moves towards the expansion of its patient care facilities.

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